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Fun things to do in Southern California

Illustration by James Gulliver Hancock

A curated list of the best upcoming events in Southern California.

Tea at the Huntington

Ongoing The Huntington’s Rose Garden Tea Room has reopened following a major renovation. The refurbished building includes upgraded indoor dining space and a new outdoor dining pavilion overlooking the Shakespeare Garden. Adults, $25–$29 (for admission to the Huntington). Closed Tuesdays; reservations recommended. The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino.

150th Anniversary of the Los Angeles Public Library

FREE! Ongoing The Los Angeles Public Library’s main branch is unveiling an exhibit dedicated to its trove of artifacts, from its humble beginnings as a system from rented rooms over a saloon to its current state as the largest urban library system in the country. The exhibit will trace that sesquicentennial story through photographs and artifacts from the library’s extensive collection. Downtown Los Angeles.

High Tea at The Biltmore

Ongoing, weekends To help celebrate this palatial building's centennial, the hotel is bringing back high tea service. Guests can enjoy an assortment of sandwiches, scones, pastries, and custom-made tea by Chef Justin Bastian of St. Bastian Tea Company. A reservation also includes a complimentary glass of champagne for adults ages 21 and over. $75 per person, $45 per child. Downtown Los Angeles.

“Don’t Fence Me In: Coming of Age in America’s Concentration Camps”

Through October 1 During World War II, more than 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry were incarcerated in American camps, and about one-third were children. Through photographs, personal stories, and artifacts, this exhibit reveals the strength and ingenuity of young Americans who grew up in the 11 camps. Adults, $16 (free to members and children 5 and under). Japanese American National Museum, Los Angeles

Keith Haring: Art Is For Everybody

Through October 8 Pop artist Keith Haring’s work was rarely confined to museums—it was more commonly found decorating murals and subway cars. Since his untimely death in 1990 at the age of 31, Haring’s colorful characters have appeared on everything from prints to socks. Despite such cultural omnipresence, The Broad is the first museum in L.A. to host a Haring retrospective. The exhibit displays more than 120 of his works, including paintings, sculptures, and video art. Tickets, $22. The Broad, Los Angeles.

Savage Gardens at the San Diego Botanic Garden

Through October 29 For most people, gardening is a relaxing pastime that relieves stress and rewards a green thumb. For those who find gardening too relaxing, there are Venus fly traps. The San Diego Botanic Garden's exhibit “The Real and Imaginary World of Carnivorous Plants” in the glass-enclosed Dickinson Family Education Conservatory will feature a collection of living carnivorous plants alongside art installations that will give visitors a bug's-eye perspective. Vendors will be selling plants, potting materials, and other merchandise on select weekends. Adults, $18. San Diego Botanic Gardens, San Diego

Big Bear Lake Oktoberfest

Through November 4 At sea level in Southern California, the signs of autumn are limited. But head into the mountains and the leaves begin to change, the air gets crisper, and for 9 weekends, the steins get larger. Oktoberfest traditions will be in full force for this family-friendly event with sausages, potato dumplings, and giant pretzels alongside German beers and an events calendar packed with live entertainment ranging from a traditional Lithuanian folk dance ensemble to Top 40 rock bands. Adult tickets start at $25. The Convention Center at Big Bear Lake, Big Bear

Pokémon X KOGEI

FREE! Through January 7, 2024 Created in Japan in the mid-1990s, Pokémon has expanded to include more than 1,000 distinct and colorful characters. This exhibit, under the supervision of Japan’s National Crafts Museum in Kanazawa, merges artifacts from the relatively new Pokémon craze with long-standing Japanese craft techniques such as metalwork and ceramics. Japan House, Hollywood.

Black California Dreamin’: Claiming Space at America’s Leisure Frontier

FREE! Through March 31, 2024 Angelenos and other Californians worked to make access to nature, recreation, and relaxation possible for African Americans during the first half of the 20th century, when Southern California was positioning itself as the center of the “American dream.” This exhibit illuminates how African Americans helped shape recreational sites and public spaces during the Jim Crow era through historical photographs and memorabilia as well as contemporary artworks. California African American Museum, Los Angeles.

John Waters: Pope of Trash

Through August 4, 2024 Filmmaker/actor/provocateur John Waters’ gonzo films were screened strictly for the fringe until Hairspray made him a household name in 1988. That film would go on to become a Broadway hit, earning more than half a dozen Tony Awards 20 years ago. Since then, Waters has been broadly embraced as America’s weird uncle. The Academy Museum is presenting a complete retrospective of his career, including props, scripts, and behind-the-scenes photographs. Adults, $25. Academy Museum, Los Angeles

Alta Baja Market/Rancho Gordo Heirloom Bean Encuentro

September 29–October 1 In downtown Santa Ana, Alta Baja Market’s grocery store and cafe is stocked with dry goods, home and gift items, a large selection of wine from Mexico, freshly made dishes, and a rainbow of Michelada flavors, but nothing embodies their mission more than this event hosted in partnership with Rancho Gordo heirloom beans. The 3-day extravaganza celebrates love, music, movies, and frijoles with movie screenings at the nearby Frida Cinema, drag brunch and bean bingo, wine and mezcal tastings, a community art walking tour, and a 5-course meal. Prices range from $12 for a movie ticket to $120 for dinner/wine pairings. Alta Baja Market and nearby locations, Santa Ana

Pacific Air Show

September 29–October 1 If the overwhelming success of last year’s Top Gun sequel is any indication of the nation’s interest in lightning-fast jets, then expect to see a lot of people on the sand for this annual tradition. The sprawling event will feature mighty aerial displays from the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and the Canadian Forces Snowbirds. Huntington Beach’s long, open shoreline is one of the best spaces to witness this unrivaled display of aviation innovation. Tickets start at $25 per day. Huntington Beach Pier, Huntington Beach.

Goleta Lemon Festival

FREE! September 30–October 1 Lemons have been grown around the Santa Barbara area for 150 years, and this year marks the 30th anniversary of the Goleta Lemon Festival. Of the many activities on hand—carnival rides and games, mini golf, obstacle courses, live music, food vendors—the lemon meringue pie–eating contest (at noon on both days) is not to be missed. Also be sure to stop by the Goleta Fall Classic car show, which takes place on Saturday. Girsch Park, Goleta.

Agoura Hills Reyes Adobe Days

FREE! October 6–8 This multi-day community celebration showcases the historic Reyes Adobe, which was built in the 1950s, along with art, music, and hands-on educational opportunities for kids. Friday's ticketed event ($20) includes a drink and food, and local vendors will be selling their handmade creations. The free festival on Saturday kicks off with a parade at 10 a.m. and also features food trucks, live music, a beer and wine garden, tours of the historic adobe, an artisan marketplace, and a student art exhibit. Reyes Adobe Historical Site and Park, Agoura Hills.

Central Coast Railroad Festival

October 6–8 Live the train-lover’s dream at this annual festival hosted by the San Luis Obispo Railroad Museum. The event is spread across the Central Coast—including San Luis Obispo, Pismo Beach, Paso Robles, Santa Barbara, and Santa Maria Valley—but the main activities and exhibits take place Saturday at the museum from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Highlights include a large-scale model railroad, food vendors, a swap meet, trains coming and going, wine tasting, presentations and demonstrations, and new exhibits. Saturday admission, $5 for adults. San Luis Obispo Railroad Museum, San Luis Obispo.

California Avocado Festival

FREE! October 6–8 This annual festival includes a competition to declare the best guac, which takes place Saturday around noon. In addition to the more than 75 musical acts across 4 stages, there will be food vendors, arts and crafts, a kids’ area, commercial vendors, and an expo tent celebrating all things avocado. Downtown Carpinteria.

La Jolla Art & Wine Festival 

FREE! October 7–8 This downtown La Jolla festival features more than 150 artists and a wine-and-beer garden offering sips from at least 15 vineyards and 5 local brewers. But there’s more to this event than art and wine: The organizers work with local rescue centers to set up pet adoption stations throughout the festival, so you can potentially bring home a new furry friend. Girard Avenue, La Jolla.

Fritz Coleman: Unassisted Living

October 15, November 26 Beloved former SoCal weathercaster Fritz Coleman has taken on a post-retirement career: stand-up comedy! Building on his popular Tubi special, Coleman covers topics from Zoom school and retirement to going vegan and growing older. Each show will feature new material and special guests. Tickets start at $35 and start at 3 p.m.. El Portal Theater, North Hollywood

L.A. Korean Festival

FREE! October 12–15 Nearly 2 million Korean Americans live in the U.S., with more than 300,000 in Southern California alone. This festival, one of the largest of its kind in the country, features street food, crafts, and other shopping opportunities. Check out music performances ranging from stoic drum ensembles to K-pop contests, and a parade with floats and participants wearing traditional attire. Seoul International Park, Los Angeles.

In-N-Out's 75th Anniversary Festival

October 22 In-N-Out Burger has long reigned as a definitive eat-in-the-car meal. The red-and-white storefronts and criss-crossed palm trees are a reliable sight across the West Coast, while their 30 dual-lane drive-throughs are the quintessential depiction of car-culture cuisine: a slow-motion race where everybody wins. To celebrate their 75th anniversary, the In-N-Out Burger Pomona Dragstrip will host a car show, drag racing, carnival rides and games, a cookout, and a concert featuring ZZ Top and 311 with fireworks late into the night. Concert and festival, $75 (plus $10 parking per vehicle); festival only, $25 for adults (plus $10 parking per vehicle). Pomona.

Ojai Storytelling Festival

October 26–29 This 4-day ode to creativity celebrates stories and their tellers at the Libbey Bowl and Ojai Art Center. Try your hand at storytelling and get tips from the pros at the Story Swap on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday; get your ribs tickled at Laughing Night on Friday; hear spooky stories with Niall de Burca on Friday; and watch a performance by award-winning songwriter Norman Foote on Sunday. Weekend passes start at $170 for adults, $85 for children under 16 (you can also buy tickets for individual events). Ojai.

Corgi Beach Day

FREE! October 28 This semiannual event boasts more than 1,200 corgis in attendance—though all dogs and humans are welcome. Enjoy contests, food trucks with treats for both canines and their owners, and 30-plus vendors (expect to see at least a few corgi pun T-shirts). With the sand in your hair and the sun on your face, you too might be feeling “corgeous.” Huntington Dog Beach.

Art & Nature Festival

FREE! November 2–5 The Laguna Art Museum celebrates its lush corner of the world with this annual festival featuring special exhibitions, lectures, panel discussions, films, and more. Sunday’s activities include a cliffside walking tour, educational activities, and free admission to the galleries all day. Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach

California Wine Festival

November 10–11 The Paséa Hotel & Spa has no shortage of ocean views and plenty of nice places to sit, making it the perfect venue for the California Wine Festival. The weekend kicks off with a high-end tasting in the hotel’s ballroom while the main poolside event features more than 200 California-grown wines. The tasting combinations are endless and the views are unmatched. Tickets start at $80. Paséa Hotel & Spa, Huntington Beach

Torrance Craftsmen’s Guild Fall Faire

FREE! November 11–12 A key component of handmade crafts is passing down traditions and techniques, which Torrance’s Craftsmen’s Guild has been doing for more than half a century. The craft fair provides countless opportunities for holiday shopping, but the real inspiration is that the guild is heartily dedicated to the future: Proceeds go toward bringing a bit of handmade joy to the pediatric ward at Harbor UCLA Medical Center and supporting scholarships for creative local high school students. Torrance Cultural Arts Center, Torrance

Santa Barbara ZooLights

November 15–January 15  The Santa Barbara Zoo offers after-dark winter fun for much of the holiday season. More than 50,000 LED bulbs are employed to illuminate the 30-acre facility, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. Tickets start at $18. Santa Barbara Zoo, Santa Barbara

San Diego Anime Con

November 18–19 San Diego is universally recognized for its Comic-Con, which encompasses a wide range of popular culture and Hollywood glitz. The inaugural Anime Con is a more modest affair, focused mainly on the world of Japanese animation. Expect costumed guests, workshops, a dance party, and even a pop-up maid café (the Tokyo-originating maid-themed eateries have risen in popularity in the past 20 years). Weekend passes, $34; single-day tickets start at $17. Handlery Hotel, Mission Valley, San Diego.

Balboa Park December Nights

FREE! December 1–2 With more than 100 vendors and a multitude of museums focused on everything from airplanes to comic books, Balboa Park’s December Nights event attracts tens of thousands of holiday revelers each year. A highlight of the event is the tree-lighting ceremony at the famed Spreckels Organ Pavilion, a 108-year-old performance space featuring what’s said to be the world’s largest outdoor musical instrument. Balboa Park, San Diego.

Oxnard Tamale Festival

FREE! December 2 It’s estimated that humans have been consuming tamales for roughly 10,000 years—that’s a lot of masa. At this annual festival, you’ll find tamales prepared every way, with fillings that range from traditional proteins to strawberries and pineapple. Set in the park near the route of the city’s annual Christmas parade, the festival also features arts and crafts vendors, live music, and a kids’ zone. Plaza Park, Oxnard

Mujeres Makers Holiday Market

FREE! December 2–3 While the famed European holiday markets evoke frigid fingers and centuries-long traditions, the Santa Barbara coast has a sunnier feel—you can even stroll the market in flip-flops. The makers at this holiday market are all women of color, who will be selling holiday-ready crafts, vintage items, and clothing perfect for gift-giving or receiving. El Presidio de Santa Bárbara, Santa Barbara.

Santa Ana Winter Village

FREE! December 8–January 8 Consider it a Christmas miracle that Orange County—where temperatures rarely dip below 50 degrees—actually has a few seasonal outdoor skating rinks, including this wonderful addition to Santa Ana’s third annual holiday celebration. Take a spin around the rink before enjoying live entertainment, getting a picture taken with Santa, noshing on bites from one of the many food trucks, and shopping for everyone on your list. General admission is free; ice skating ranges from $5 to $15. Plaza of the Flags, Santa Ana

Olde Tyme Christmas at the Ranch

December 9 Over a century and a half ago, William D. Bradshaw established a stagecoach route that stretched from San Bernardino to the Colorado River. The Gilman Ranch, which once served as a stagecoach stop, is located along the original route and contains a wagon museum with original horse-drawn carriages. The ranch’s annual holiday event features holiday crafts and an opportunity to ride on a stagecoach around the historic property. $10 per vehicle. Historic Gilman Ranch and Wagon Museum, Banning

Made in L.A. 2023: Acts of Living

FREE! Through December 31 This sixth iteration of the Hammer Museum’s survey of Los Angeles artists is one of the nation’s most far-reaching, high-profile exhibitions on contemporary art. The exhibit includes new works from more than 3 dozen artists and collectives including assemblage artist Dominique Moody and AMBOS: Art Made Between Opposite Sides, a project launched by Tanya Aguiñiga that addresses the California/Mexico border from a cross-cultural exchange. Hammer Museum, Los Angeles

Southern California Slack Key Festival

January 14 Transport yourself to the Hawaiian Islands without leaving Southern California at this annual festival, the biggest Hawaiian music event on the mainland. In addition to plentiful live music, you can learn about the history of the ki ho‘alu guitar, shop in the Island Marketplace, and enjoy a range of culinary delights. Concert tickets start at $25; the marketplace is free. Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center, Redondo Beach.

An Evening with Henry Winkler

January 20 When Henry Winkler’s iconic Fonzie character bid farewell to America’s TV audiences nearly 40 years ago, it seemed that the actor might never shake the famous greaser’s laugh-tracked cool. While he has worked continuously since then, earning accolades for his voice-over work and unexpected cameos, Winkler has hit a new career peak over the past 5 years with his portrayal of Gene Cousineau on the alternately hilarious and brutal Barry. Hear some of the affable raconteur’s stories at the performing arts center at Cal State Long Beach. Tickets, $65. Carpenter Performing Arts Center, Long Beach

FREE! indicates free admission to the event, but additional fees may be required. Be sure to designate a driver if you plan to drink alcohol.

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